New data laws could help firms build better customer relationships

The panel of experts speaking at the Norfolk Chamber of COmmerce GDPR Conference. Picture: Paul Harr

The panel of experts speaking at the Norfolk Chamber of COmmerce GDPR Conference. Picture: Paul Harrison Photography - Credit: Paul Harrison Photography

New data laws are 'an evolution not a revolution' and give businesses a chance to better connect with their customers.

That was the message from a sold-out conference held by the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce to inform companies about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which will be introduced on May 25.

The 350 delegates from businesses across Norfolk heard from experts on the legal framework, the risks and the opportunities of the law.

While many of the headlines have been stolen by the large fines which can be handed out by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for breaches – up to 20m euro or 4% of global turnover for the worst offences – Leathes Prior solicitor Alex Saunders said there was a lot of misinformation.

'There is a lot of information out there and some of it is overwhelming and some of it is not reliable,' he said. 'There is a lot of continuity with the Data Protection Act but it is bringing it up to date with the technological and social changes over the last 20 years.'

He added while consent to use personal data had been a focus for many there were other ways to justify using information, such as for the benefit of someone's health or public works.

Tom Parsley, commercial director at digital marketing agency Selesti, said although when GDPR was first announced it had sounded like the 'end of the world' for marketers, it brought opportunities to be creative.

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'The truth is we need to stop collecting data in the hope it will one day be useful,' he said. 'That mentality has given marketers a bad reputation. Customers feel we collect data indiscriminately to bombard them.'

He added: 'Users will have to opt in to communications – no more tricking customers with pre-ticked boxes. Both sides will better understand how and why data is collected and used, building a better relationship and creating more opportunities to understand how we can sell things.'

Norfolk Chamber chief executive Chris Sargissson said: 'I think the key message is that it is evolution not revolution. Data protection has been around for 20 years and this is an adaption of that in line with developments.'

Other speakers included Breakwater IT managing director John Gostling and CyberScale's Darren Chapman.